Monday, October 08, 2012

A Tale of Two Weinwanderungen

This fall we've had the great pleasure of attending not one but two walk-in-the-vineyard-style wine fests featuring delicious, delicious neuer Wein (aka Federweisser & other regional names)!
"One drinks it now or never: fresh new wine!" Untrue - there's always next year.
The first, in late September, was the Freinsheim Kulinarische Weinwanderung which we attend every year.  This year we had the pleasure of the Regensbloggers' company which made it all the better. The second was new to us - the Oppenheim Schlemmerwanderung on October 3 (a Wednesday holiday, Tag der Deutschen Einheit).  I was so excited to finally have an excuse to visit Oppenheim.  On my many commutes to Mainz back in my Master's student days, I passed Oppenheim on the train every day and it looked so beautiful in the morning light, with a big pink church on a hill surrounded by vineyards. 

The two festivals definitely felt very different from each other despite having the same premise and not even being very far apart (Freinsheim in the Pfalz and Oppenheim in Rheinhessen, which border each other).

Crowds: The Freinsheim fest is a huge event and seems to get more crowded each year.  Extra trains are added to the schedule to deal with the crowds. I can be pretty crowd-intolerant at times, but the accessibility of open fields all around really makes it feel like no big deal to me. Having gotten used to that, imagine our surprise when we got off the train at Oppenheim and only about 6 other people did!  I don't think they were even all going to the festival.  The Oppenheim festival is newer and was far less crowded.  Seating was indeed still hard to come by at the food stands but there was far less of it in the first place.

Vineyards: The walk through Freinsheim's vineyards is nearly flat.  The view is of gently rolling vineyards in all directions, bordered in the distance by industry on the Rhine in one direction and the wooded hills of the Pfälzer Wald in the other.  Oppenheim's vineyards are on a slope rising up from the Rhine plain.  It's not steep at all (very easy walking) but high enough to get amazing views over the valley and especially of Oppenheim with its pink steeples.  Unfortunately, though, Oppenheim's vineyards offered little in the way of goodies like Freinsheim's Jesus Shovel, Deidesheim's mysterious chapelesque thing or stairs-in-walls, or Bensheim's numerous adorable sheds and gates - and these things are my favorite part of exploring vineyards so that was kind of a downer. 

Food: Both fests advertise food as part of the attraction.  The Freinsheim fest has a greater variety of food and seems to be a bit more organized in this regard - they only run out toward the end.  The Oppenheim fest had mostly meat-with-roll options although there were a couple of stands with other offerings.  Unfortunately, though, by three hours after the fest started the stand where we planned to eat had already run completely out of food.  An hour later we ran across another one that had no food at all left.  I think it's just that this festival is a lot younger and hasn't quite figured out the necessary supply - or maybe this year was a lot busier than previous years.  Hopefully it will improve with time. :)

Mood: Jovial all around.  This year's Freinsheim fest was actually a less friendly experience for us than usual.  I don't know if it was because I, not thinking much about it, wore a shirt that blatantly advertised my Americanness (not that I ever hide it, but maybe the shirt seemed obnoxious), or if it was just bad luck, or if the sheer crowdedness of the fest is starting to wear on people.  Still, the general mood in Freinsheim still felt jolly.  In Oppenheim we shared a table with a fun crowd who recognized us again later at a cafe in town (screaming across the street...).  Everyone was really nice, except the poor stressed teenage workers at one of the stands that ran out of food.  Poor things.

Glasses: In Freinsheim you just pay a Pfand (deposit) on your glass and you can take it back to any stand to get your money back. In Oppenheim you have to buy the glass (about the same price as a Pfand) and can't return it.  It's a little annoying since the last thing we need is more weird-shaped glasses, but it's not a big cost so not a big deal.

I'd do both again!  And again!  And again!

Visual aids!:
Freinsheim Sep 12
Oppenheim Okt 12

Read the Regensbloggers' account of the Freinsheim fest here!

Previous years:
Freinsheim Weinwanderung 2011
Apparently I never blogged it in 2010..
Freinsheim Weinwanderung 2009
Freinsheim Weinwanderung 2007
Freinsheim Weinwanderung 2006
Also, here's German Gems' account of last year's Oppenheim Schlemmerwanderung


  1. Sounds like fun! I just tried Federweisser for the first time a few weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised! I've never really been to a wine festival before. I'll have to try that out sometime!

  2. Each fest has its own personality -- that's what makes them fun. Love your photos!


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